• If God Wrote my Name in the Stars…


    …would I believe He existed?

    The question of what it would take for me to believe that God exists comes up from time to time, and I think it’s good to have an idea of what sort of evidence would be acceptable to me. Now, if I knew that God wrote my name in the stars, then I would believe, simply because such knowledge entails the existence of God. The question then really ought to be whether or not I’d believe that it was God who wrote my name in the stars, if indeed my name was written in the stars.

    Now, when I say that my name is written in the stars, I mean that the stars are positioned such as to unmistakably resemble Roman letters; the right letters in the right order to spell my name. I do not mean that if one was to squint a bit they might be sort of able to maybe make out my name. I mean that my name is written clearly and discernibly as if it was a computer font. So, given these premises, if my full name was spelled out in the stars, then I doubt that it would be a chance occurrence. After all, the stars aren’t arranged like that at the moment, and this fact can be proven with recorded astronomical data. The stars would have had to have changed position (or formed anew) to spell out my name.

    If, then, on a clear night I glance up at the sky and read my own name in the stars, should I then immediately conclude that God exists? I say no – we know that the human mind is capable of imagining, hallucinating and generally ‘seeing’ things that aren’t really there, like Jesus in cheese toast. The best course of action then, is to ask several others if they see it too. If they don’t then there are two explanations I can think of. The first is that I am hallucinating – my name isn’t really written in the stars. That seems the most plausible in this situation (we can’t rule out that God caused the hallucination, but there is no reason to hold this belief positively). The other is that my name really is written in the stars but others are unable to see it. Perhaps God has put some measure in place to prevent them from experiencing my name written in the stars. It is my name after all, and maybe this is a reason for the experience to be a private one. Still I don’t think I’d have any way of knowing that I wasn’t hallucinating; we have lots of evidence for hallucination and a dearth of evidence for God writing private messages in the stars, and so I don’t think a private experience of this sort justifies us in believing that God exists.

    If my name, written in the stars, is seen by the rest of the world, reported by news outlets and investigated by astronomers, who conclude that the stars really are, now, arranged in that form (i.e. I haven’t been the victim of a monumentally elaborate human-made prank involving, say, satellites), then supernatural explanations start to sound a lot more plausible. As Bill O’Reilly might say (with a little more justification this time): “you can’t explain that”. Should I, in these circumstances, conclude that God exists? I’m still reluctant. God isn’t the only supernatural explanation; I might explain it by saying that my ancestors have formed themselves into stars to give me a (rather cryptic) message from beyond the grave. Perhaps more content in the text than just my name would shed more light on what I was witnessing.

    I should be wary about jumping to a supernatural conclusion in the absence of any natural explanation. There might be some way the stars could clearly spell out a name as a result of only natural forces, and such a way may not even involve pure chance. So some reaction could happen on Earth, projecting my written name into space, which affected gravity and… (I’m just making this nonsense up). However, I think even many skeptics would agree that perhaps in this instance the supernatural explanation has a certain plausibility that usually isn’t found when we’re stuck for an explanation on a scientific anomaly. The idea that it was God who wrote my name in the stars would have even more force if I had preceded such a miracle by asking God (or thin air) “God, if you exist, write my name in the stars!”. If I asked such a thing and then saw that the stars spelled out my full name clearly and undoubtedly (with corroboration by others and confirmation by respected astronomers), I think that would be a justification to believe in God, even if it couldn’t give me absolute certainty.

    The question asked in this article has significance for the argument against the existence of God from non-belief. One objection (albeit one of the weaker ones in response to the argument from non-belief) goes that atheists are unwilling to believe no matter what evidence is presented. If I am right, and writing my name in the stars would convince me to believe, then this objection cannot be sustained.


    Please let me know what you think in the comments. Would you be convinced that God exists by having your name written in the stars? Why/why not? If not, then what, if anything would convince you? If yes, then is there any lesser evidence that may also convince you?


    Category: AtheismReligion

    Article by: Notung

    I started as a music student, studying at university and music college, and playing trombone for various orchestras. While at music college, I became interested in philosophy, and eventually went on to complete an MA in Philosophy in 2012. An atheist for as long as I could think for myself, a skeptic, and a political lefty, my main philosophical interests include epistemology, ethics, logic and the philosophy of religion. The purpose of Notung (named after the name of the sword in Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen) is to concentrate on these issues, examining them as critically as possible.